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Thursday, 21 June 2007

Six Tips for Success Right Out of College

Hi all...

The article below is extremely useful for fresh grads going into their first job. I have personally realised and used some of these tips myself (years before such an article was written) and yes, I have benefited tremendously in my career. I wouldn't have been where I am now, if not for the things I did since my first day of work in my first job :)

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by Jim Citrin

Job opportunities abound across all sectors for the graduating class of 2007. According to Job Outlook 2007, employers plan to hire 17.4 percent more new college graduates this year than from the class of 2006, the fourth straight year of double-digit growth according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Many of the approximately 3 million students graduating from U.S. colleges this year will enter the workforce for the very first time. They'll have to adapt to new cultures, expectations, and schedules.

And while success will no longer be about getting good grades in class, they shouldn't fool themselves -- they'll still be graded every day. In the workplace, however, "grades" are far more subjective and ill-defined than in school.

Advice from the Top

If you're starting a new job fresh from school, Christie Hefner, chairman and CEO of Playboy Enterprises, has some sage advice. (Full disclosure: The company I work for, Spencer Stuart, has done client work for Playboy Enterprises.)

"A key to success in your new job is recognizing that it's no longer about your individual achievement, but the success of the team, the organization," says Hefner. "You should start out by listening -- a lot. Make the effort to understand the culture and learn the history and strategy of the organization.

"Make an effort to meet people, to make friends, to learn what other people need and value," she continues. "That includes your boss, your department, your colleagues, and the company. If you make them look good, you'll look good."

To build on Hefner's counsel, here are six guidelines to help launch your career with real momentum:

1. Maintain a positive attitude.

This seems obvious, but attitude is the single most important asset you'll bring to the early days of your job. It's also something over which you have complete control.

Be upbeat and optimistic. Be the kind of person who creates rather than saps energy from other people. Be proactive and take initiative.

Don't wait to be asked how your project is going -- make an appointment with your boss or go see the project manager to share your progress and check to see if you're on track. Listen attentively and ask good questions. Above all, don't be a know-it-all.

2. Work hard.

There's no escaping the fact that hard work on a consistent basis is a foundational requirement for success. High-level performance only comes with experience acquired through hard work and practice.

A deep body of evidence supports this contention; the top performers in any field, from business to science to sports to music, work harder than others. So as you start your career, get into the office early and stay late.

The most successful people don't just work harder, though -- they also work smarter. It's not just the number of hours you put in at the office that counts, it's what you do with those hours. Don't work hard just to build a reputation. Do it to get a higher caliber of work done, and to train in and practice the central skills that are required for achievement in your job.

You'll need to make an effort to avoid becoming a one-dimensional workaholic, however. It takes self-discipline to work hard in your job and still find the time to tend to your personal life and family obligations, and keep yourself in good physical shape. But long-term success demands it.

Taking advantage of the technology and mobile communications in your workplace will help. Handle the emails, reading, and writing you don't have time for in the office at home, either early in the morning or at night.

3. Deliver on your commitments.

Become known as someone who can be counted on to successfully complete projects on time and with high quality. This is just as important for small tasks as it is for major projects.

Don't be disappointed if your first job is narrowly defined, and some of your early assignments seem menial. They aren't -- they're opportunities to demonstrate that you can meet your commitments, and when you do, you'll earn trust and confidence.

You'll be surprised at how quickly larger and more significant assignments come your way when you develop a reputation for delivering on commitments.

4. Perform completed staff work.

"Completed staff work" is a concept that means going beyond a basic work assignment to understand why something is needed, how it will be used, and what form it will take once it's completed. This helps avoid delaying a project with incomplete, piecemeal solutions.

For instance, if a sales manager asks you for an analysis of a target client, applying the doctrine of completed staff work results in a finished product that can be shared throughout the department, passed along to upper management, or used directly with the client. Set this as the standard for all your work.

5. Focus on the success of others.

I've written about this principle consistently in my column, but it can't be stated often enough. It's a fail-safe success strategy to make others around you successful, and you'll be successful as a natural result.

Why is this true? The most talented people will want to work with you. You'll become in-demand for the most important projects by the most senior people, and you'll build a network of supporters across the organization who'll be invested in your success. Develop this habit from day one of your career.

But how, you might ask, can I help others be successful if I'm brand new in the job myself? Look for ways to be helpful. Be proactive. Be willing to take on extra or unpopular work. Stay focused on the goals of your boss, your team, and your company, and make their goals your goals.

6. Be a technology mentor.

Today's college graduates have a huge advantage over anyone born before 1980. If you've grown up with digital technology as a normal and integral part of your life, you have the opportunity to bring the tech-phobic senior members of your office into the modern era.

Teach them how to use Facebook, how to upload a video to YouTube, how to organize digital photos on Flickr, how to create a profile on MySpace, or even how to watch reruns of "Gilligan's Island" on TV Links. Even relatively standard activities like creating PowerPoint presentations can benefit from your know-how as a member of the class of 2007.

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